More post-16 free schools planned to aid maths A-level take-up

Ministers want more post-16 specialist free schools to open across the country in order to help address regional imbalances in the proportion of pupils studying maths to A-level.

Newly released government statistics show the proportion of pupils going on to study maths after achieving a top grade in their GCSEs significantly varies across local authority areas.

Ministers say that specialist maths free schools, pioneered by the King’s Maths and Exeter Mathematics schools, could help change this.

The plan to “spread” the new schools across the country is set out in the government’s new industrial strategy, which was released this afternoon.

Business secretary Greg Clark set out the plans, stating the government would “consider how to enable the specialist maths school model pioneered by Exeter and King’s College London to spread”.

He also said “partners” will be sought to open the schools, though it is not known who the partners will be.

According to the latest data, just 44 per cent of pupils schooled in Knowsley, who achieve an A or A* grade at GCSE maths went on to enter A level maths in 2014/15. In neighbouring St Helens, the figure was 78 per cent.

Just 56 per cent of pupils receiving top maths GCSE grades in Salford did the subject at A-level, compared to 86 per cent in Slough.

Toby Young, director of the New Schools Network which promotes free schools, said there should be a post-16 maths school in “every city in England” so children “who want to specialise in maths, technology, science and engineering at A-level have access to the very best teaching, regardless of their background”.

Young added that Britain needed more schools like the King’s Maths School if the country is to “make a success of Brexit”.

Last year the King’s Math School – which describes itself as “highly selective” on its website – saw all of its pupils achieve either an A or A* in maths A-level.

According to the strategy, the government also plans to invest a further £170 million in new ‘institutes of technology’; it has been suggested that some of this money will go towards the maths schools, but this is not stated in the plans.

The prime minister Theresa May said yesterday that the strategy would “back Britain for the long-term”, and follows a pledge by the education secretary Justine Greening to make further and technical education one of her “key priorities”.


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  1. Instead of opening yet more free schools, why not fund existing sixth forms, sixth form colleges and FE colleges adequately so they can offer A level maths to all who wish to study it not just those specially selected on their ability to get A-A*?
    Or even go further and fund all schools adequately so they can provide high-quality, broad, balanced education?

  2. Is Young implying here that schools who aren’t Maths specialists don’t teach Maths well? How does he account for such schools achieving so many A/A* grades at GCSE? Perhaps the focus should be on funding existing schools properly, so that they can retain students post-16 which a more attractive offering of courses which are well-resourced. It would cost a lot less than free schools too.